Comebacks and Quad Biking: Emma McQuaid on Her 2023 Season and Beyond

November 19, 2023 by
Photo Credit: Walsh Race Craft
Enjoying Morning Chalk Up? Access additional exclusive interviews, analyses, and stories with an Rx membership.

Since 2019, Emma McQuaid has qualified for every CrossFit Games. But this year would be a bit rockier than her four prior years at the Games. Just weeks before her trip to Madison, McQuaid injured her neck. While she still managed to start the Games this year, she was ultimately pulled from the competition by the end of the first day.

One big thing: Despite her setbacks this year, McQuaid is determined as ever and ready to take on whatever challenges next season brings. 

In fact, while her injury prevented her from finishing the Games, McQuaid knows she is probably the most capable she’s been from a CrossFit perspective.

  • “I wish I had been able to compete because this year’s workouts were probably the most fun, most enjoyable, and most well-rounded workouts. I think that kind of made me a little bit more angry,” she said.
  • “If I was fit and healthy, there wasn’t a workout out there I saw where I wasn’t thinking ‘I’m not ready for that.’” McQuaid added.
  • “Everything we did this season really prepared me,” she continued.

Looking back: McQuaid’s withdrawal from the Games was a tough ending to an already tough season. 

  • When asked for her favorite part of the season, McQuaid shrugged and replied, “that’s a tough one,”
  • After a few seconds of contemplation, she replied, “I thrusted 100kg during the Open,”
  • “That was the only highlight of the year,” she added chuckling.
  • “This year, I made the decision to switch things up a bit and purposefully not peak for the Open or Quarterfinals and save that nice big ramp for the Semifinals and the Games,” she said.
  • “I didn’t enjoy the Open because I wasn’t fit and I consciously was not trying to compete or leaderboard,” she continued.
  • “I literally rolled in on a Friday and got it [the workout] done and then jumped into a training session,” she added.
  • But after week 3, I was really pissed off, because I hate not performing,” McQuaid continued.
  • “After I [saw my performance in the Open], I said to my coach ‘you know what f*ck it we’re going to perform in all the workouts in Quarterfinals,” she said.

Unfortunately, McQuaid wouldn’t get her redemption arc during Quarterfinals. The week before the weekend kicked off, her brother returned from Australia with a nasty virus that kept her in bed the entire weekend of Quarterfinals.

And her redemption wouldn’t come during Semifinals either.

  • “It was a struggle going in and mentally thinking I can’t win a workout,” McQuaid said, reflecting on when Semifinals workouts were released.
  • “Semifinals was scary,” McQuaid said. I did every workout at least four times in practice. So I kind of felt I just scraped through,” she continued.
  • “Then obviously we started into Games training, that’s the most fun time of the year, and literally one weekend in I got injured and that was it,” she concluded.

After her injury, McQuaid lost nearly all feeling in her arms for almost nine days. But while many would have called it quits on their season, McQuaid wasn’t ready to give up. Despite her injuries, she decided to compete.

  • “We kind of didn’t realize how severe it was,” McQuaid said of her injuries adding that the week before the Games started, she was tripping over her own two feet during training, because of the neurological strain her injuries caused.
  • “After day one at the Games, my left arm went completely numb,” she said noting that that was then the medic crew at the Games elected to remove her from the competition.

While it was a disappointing end to a difficult season, McQuaid is still hungry for more.

  • “If my body allows it, I’m 100% all in for next season and I’m not going to treat the open as I’m just going to get this done,” she said.
  • “I want to properly compete for the whole season,” she added.
  • “Just go back to the old school, fun atmosphere,” McQuaid said.
  • “I want to get a little Friday Night Lights going on and create a little bit of that atmosphere to take us back to the “why” of why we got into CrossFit,” she continued.

McQuaid also noted that one of her main goals this year was to have fun throughout the season.

  • “This year I got very sidetracked on the idea that I’ve got a job to do,” she said.
  • “I was so laser-focused that I didn’t enjoy any of it,” she continued.
  • “My best years were when I was having fun,” she said adding that she hopes to drive a fun and competitive atmosphere in her gym this competition season.

Beyond CrossFit: While McQuaid may have not gotten the win she wanted this year, she was still able to go back to her roots in quad biking to reignite her passion there and win a few trophies along the way.

  • “I didn’t really have anything to turn the season around,” she said noting that while she would have liked to compete in a weightlifting competition her injury prevented her.
  • “And I said to my husband, ‘I think I can ride the quad,’” she said.
  • “And he looked at me and said ‘don’t.’” McQuaid laughed, because of course, she is not the type of person you say no to.

This means that just a few weeks later, her husband was getting her quad bike ready for her first race back.

  • “I actually only got to ride the quad bike twice and I haven’t raced the sand tracks since 2017 which was the last time I raced on that kind of surface so I had no clue how it was going to go,” she said adding that she decided that this race would be her CrossFit Games for the season.

In line with her luck for the rest of the season, her first race did not start as planned.

  • “I got to the start line for the first race and I stalled the quad,” she said, adding “it was such an amateur move,”
  • But in the first race, McQuaid would go from dead last after stalling her bike to winning the entire race in the last lap.
  • “I was like oh ok this is how the weekend is gonna go,” McQuaid laughed.
  • “So I went out and said ‘I’m going to win every single race,’”

And she did just that. 

Despite being the only woman on the course, McQuaid went out and absolutely dominated the event, winning eight out of the eight races that weekend.

While McQuaid admitted that it was incredible to get back into quad biking this year, she also noted that it would definitely remain an off-season activity for her.

  • “I think to do both would be far too difficult,” she said adding that racing quad bikes is a very physically taxing event for the body.
  • “CrossFit compliments quad racing, because you can get so fit and so strong,” she continued noting that quad racing didn’t really compliment competitive CrossFit because of how tough it was on her body.
  • “The ATVs are so physically demanding. The only way I can describe it is if you can do a true 20-minute watt test on a C2 bike,” she said.
  • “My heart rate is at 180-185 for 20 minutes.”
  • “If I continue to compete at a high-level quads will always be an off-season bit of fun, but I do plan on doing a few professional races in America,” McQuaid said.
  • “Because I’ve heard there’s a new girl on the block and so I have to see if I’m still one of the fastest women in the world,” she said laughing.

The big picture: With this season behind her and a new season just a few months away, McQuaid is poised to make an incredible comeback. Despite being one of the older athletes on the field, McQuaid continues to prove that her experience and maturity on the field are an incredible benefit to her performance. While no one can predict the future perfectly, it’s safe to say that it probably wouldn’t be best to bet against McQuaid this upcoming season.

Get the Newsletter

For a daily digest of all things CrossFit. Community, Competitions, Athletes, Tips, Recipes, Deals and more.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.